So how useful is broadband?
Answering questions of why do you need faster broadband are always difficult, as the reasons it is needed often vary a lot from person to person. The heavy snow fall in the UK has meant many schools are closed, but it seems a lot of people are finding that broadband allows them to work at home and is one of the reasons for wanting a connection that can cope with someone working, and kids home from school doing what kids do online.
Plusnet invariably talks about unusual spikes in usage on its blog, and the snow event has been no different, with what looks to be a large increase in the amount of VPN, remote desktop and other home working type applications. The BBC covers the problems that a number of websites that provide travel information have suffered. This reveals one downside of relying on mobile broadband, since mobile networks are generally contended at both the bandwidth and availability of sessions to access it at a level that is often much greater than most fixed line broadband services.
So perhaps it could be concluded that UK broadband has been a help during a time of disruption to the transport network. Certainly the floods and fuel strikes of the past appear to have lead to more firms investing in systems to allow staff to work from home. Of course, not everyone can work from home, there are still jobs in the UK that require working with actual physical goods.
Drawing the conclusion that UK broadband is up to the job and simply needs some in-fill to get 100% coverage would be a dangerous thing. Home working relies heavily on a two way exchange of data, and due to a combination of the technologies currently deployed and pricing decisions, millions upon millions of broadband lines can only send data at around one tenth of the speed they receive it. The end result which some are experiencing now is that you find it taking ages to send a decent resolution image of the snow to family and friends, but doing this at the same time that dad is trying to hold an important VoIP call or access the company database can result in deadlock.
A woeful omission from the Digital Britain report was consideration for the fact that broadband is meant to be a two way path, and true broadband should give as fast uploads as it does downloads. The USO has been debated since 2003, so maybe it will be another six years before those elected to run the country realise that we are falling behind, and that the tools of business are changing. Come 2012 there will be video bloggers from countries used to 100Mbps and 1Gbps networks visiting the Olympics finding out their usual facilities are not there.